HTML? CSS? XHTML? Design? What!? :(

Hey guys,

I am not a web developer or a designer.
I know HTML. I don’t know CSS/PHP
I can figure out some things here and there in CSS and PHP, but I don’t know enough to develop and design an entire website.

I just don’t know where to start… I am totally confused and annoyed about this. Once in a while, I do some sites for non profit organizations, but it is never fully designed by me. Most of the time I use a CMS such as Joomla and throw in a template. When the template does not meet my needs, I am stuck. I can install, configure, setup, throw in a template on a Joomla within minutes. I have a hard time when it comes to design and figuring out how a website should look…

I would love to design and develop beautiful and functional web sites using HTML, CSS, XHTML, Photoshop and all those good stuff! Even though I do not plan to make it my profession, I’d like to know this stuff so I can courageously say YES to a client. My friends and family sometimes asks me to do websites for big organizations or business…and I am scared to say YES because of the lack of knowledge…

Where do I start/where do I pickup/what is the best thing for me to do? I tried to start learning from scratch (HTML) but it annoys me because I know HTML already… What do I do? :confused:

Please help!


Hi nyzwerewolf, Welcome to SitePoint! :slight_smile:

There are some great books here that teach CSS, PHP, design principles etc from the ground up, and I’d advise you follow them step-by-step to get a good understanding of the areas you mention. Sounds like a book on CSS and Photoshop would be best at this stage. You can safely leave PHP to one side for now.

There is a 5-for-1 sale on all SitePoint PDFs this week, so I’d advise jumping in and picking out 5 pdfs that deal with your topics of interest.

Hey Ralph,

Thanks for your quick response. I actually purchased all the books that SitePoint have published when it was having a huge sale during Christmas 2009. I just don’t know where to start…

Hi Low,

I’d say you learn the fundamentals first and not bother with backend stuff (PHP) yet.

You say you know HTML. That is a good start. However, you must know CSS as well as that is the means with which you lay out your HTML documents.

There’s tons more, obviously, but HTML and CSS are the foundation upon which every (okay, most) website’s frontend is created. And because there are so many things you need to learn, like understanding the box model, various browser bugs and how to workaround/fix them, etc., I’ll not suggest anything else other than to start with CSS. :slight_smile:

kohoutek, thanks for your response.

Ok, So I should start with: Build Your Own Web Site The Right Way Using HTML & CSS, 2nd Edition and then what should I move on to?

Ah, someone who has actually read the book will be able to tell you that. I haven’t read it. :slight_smile:

I do have a few books I would recommend but if you already have that book then you could very well start with that one. One of my favourites is Bulletproof Web Design by Dan Cederholm. It’s one of a dozen really superb books that aren’t just good quality wise, but also evoke enthusiasm in you to create, and create. And create! :slight_smile:

I agree with kohoutek. Start with CSS. Once you’ve done that, the next step will probably be pretty obvious. It will either be improving your Photoshop skills, learning JavaScript/jQuery, or a bit of both.

But ‘first things first’ (to coin a phrase).

ok great! Thank you!

nyzwerewolf, using the SitePoint books, the order you want to learn is HTML > CSS > JavaScript (and then finally PHP).

I would say the book you mentioned (HTML and CSS the right way) is a good place to start - and the HTML and CSS reference guides will also be really useful to you understanding the elements and properties when you get the hang of the basics as a reference manual to check back with. Post the book you mentioned, move onto the CSS Anthology, it’s a fantastic book on getting your website all styled and looking beautiful, from there you’ve got the principles of beautiful web design and it’s sequal sexy web design (more about the design - but useful when you have CSS skills), then you can float to the JavaScript titles and finally round things off with their database driven site using PHP and mySQL. Hope that’s helpful (as I know it’s probably a lot to take in). The key technology list to work through though is HTML, then CSS, then JavaScript, then PHP (in order of complexity and what you need to know before moving on). :slight_smile:

I have been working thru the Build Your Website the Right Way book and have found it to be a great way to get an intro to going from HTML to CSS and HTML - I love this book - if you want company while you do it, I would be glad to share back and forth. Sometimes it helps having someone just ahead of you.


Hi there,

If you know HTML and would like to test your knowledge, you can test you knowledge at this URL ( Just click on the link your interested in, and on the following page there will be quiz on that subject (you may need to scroll down to see it) in your case HTML.

W3schools is a great knowledge base for all learners like you and me!

Best regards


There is a web site which covers HTML commands and tags, formatting text using tags and CSS style sheets, and links and images on Web pages. Aswell as using graphics including graphics software, file size, and animation. Design concepts such as background and color, layout, image maps, and tables are examined, and Web page interactivity using multimedia, applets, and ActiveX is discussed in-depth. Advanced topics covered include using JavaScript for interactivity, and advanced JavaScript techniques such as frames, cookies, objects, text strings, and the history list.



That site was written back in the stoneage by someone who didn’t have a clue what they were doing. Unless the site has been completely rewritten in the last few years then everything there is about 40 years out of date.

Well the website lists articles about CSS3 on the front page so it probably is being updated, though it’s an article website rather than a “resource” so there’s going to be a lot of old junk to watch out for. (it’s host) does tend to have a lot of informative and up-to-date tutorials though. :slight_smile:

The articles here cover a great many things to do with web design and how to tackle building a site, and are bound to help you is many ways.

Wowow what a great post – I have felt like that many times, it really holds you back. You are dying to start but… just not sure where.

I would deffo read that book – I did and made a great start from there. I knew html and had a fair grip on the basics of css – but wasnt sure where to start for a simple site.

good luck and I’m sure you will feel a lot better once you work through the book.


I too, would recommend starting with Build Your Own Web Site The Right Way Using HTML & CSS, 2nd Edition. This book was absolutely invaluable to me when I was first learning to build sites, and I’ve recommended it to countless people (and even bought and passed out a few copies to others in need.)

It’s just simply the best book out there to getting off on the right foot with pretty much everything web-related. I cannot say enough good things about it.

Comsdev123, welcome to SitePoint, and thanks for the recommend. HTML Goodies is a venerable HTML tutorial site; it was one of the first I consulted when I began teaching myself HTML (and later CSS) back in the mid-1990s. I well remember all the “So You Want To…?” articles. It was a great site in its day. It seems to have been somewhat updated, though there are some obvious relics still hanging around the site. Still a useful resource, though I wouldn’t go there first for any of my questions.

Dr. John, I’ve spent some time on WDFS; there are some excellent articles and tuts on that site, though they don’t pretend to be a comprehensive resource. Good citation.

I’d like to see someone compile a “master list” of the best current Web-based HTML and CSS tutorials, differentiating between new and veteran Web designers, and only listing tuts that are 100% committed to valid, current, standards-compliant information.